In the push to develop new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, drug company Satori Pharmaceuticals has successfully raised $37 million in venture capital to continue studying a key compound that it believes will eventually lead to a major breakthrough in disease treatment. And according to Xconomy.com, this compound comes from natural black cohosh, a perennial plant whose extract is often used to treat menopause symptoms.
Unbeknownst to many people today is the fact that pharmaceutical drugs are largely derived from natural herbs and plants that have been chemically synthesized into patented, isolated drug formulas. And Satori’s approach with black cohosh is no different, as the company hopes to eventually conduct human clinical trials on an isolated, synthesized version of the compound in question to verify that it actually does target amyloid beta 42, the protein that many researchers believe is connected with Alzheimer’s development.
Buildup of beta amyloid proteins in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, as this process is believed to degrade nerve cells in the brain and block proper nerve function. And when secretases, which are enzymes that promote the production of beta amyloid proteins, begin to dysfunction, the body is unable to successfully break them apart and prevent them from lodging in the brain.
But the substance identified in black cohosh, which was the result of work being done at the Mayo Clinic, reportedly binds with a specific enzyme known as gamma secretase that promotes the production of beta amyloid proteins, and stops them from forming in the brain. And unlike previous secretase inhibitor drugs that blocked all amyloid-promoting enzymes, including those that performed beneficial functions, natural black cohosh appears to block just those that are harmful while leaving the others alone.
“The molecule found at Mayo is a minor constituent of black cohosh that modulates gamma secretase,” said Jeff Ives, CEO of Satori, concerning the findings. “It’s a unique chemical series.”
As good as this news is, however, it is important to note that Satori does not necessarily plan to utilize black cohosh extract in its natural form for treatment — the company will likely break it apart, patent it, and sell it as an FDA-approved drug in the future. And as we all know, whenever a natural substance is artificially synthesized and separated from its other natural cofactors, negative side effects emerge.
On the other hand, it would appear as though taking black cohosh extract as it is currently available might be an effective way to prevent or even mitigate Alzheimer’s symptoms without the need for an actual drug.
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